WWE and AEW's Most Underrated and Underbooked Stars Today

Graham GSM Matthews@@WrestleRantFeatured ColumnistMay 21, 2021

WWE and AEW's Most Underrated and Underbooked Stars Today

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    Ricochet has been sitting on the sidelines of WWE for far too long.
    Ricochet has been sitting on the sidelines of WWE for far too long.Credit: WWE.com

    With the immense amount of talent WWE and All Elite Wrestling currently have under contract, it's virtually impossible for everyone to be used to their full potential simultaneously.

    WWE in particular has a tendency of signing skilled stars from all over the world, giving them a great run in NXT, and then moving them up to Raw or SmackDown to do absolutely nothing of note.

    The number of NXT wrestlers who went on to achieve great success on the main roster is astonishingly low.

    For every Roman Reigns and Bobby Lashley, there are many more who aren't getting their due. Then again, if someone as highly regarded and respected as Cesaro can break through that glass ceiling and earn himself a pay-per-view main event, there is hope for the rest of the roster.

    The same can be said about AEW, albeit to a much lesser extent. With the company snatching up so many buzzworthy competitors and future breakout stars since its inception in 2019, there isn't nearly enough television time to give everyone the exposure they deserve.

    There are those who are underrated and not often in the conversation for who could—and should—be a top talent, as well as others who are simply underbooked and not as high up the card as they should be. The following names fall into those categories.

Honorable Mentions

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    John Morrison

    With The Miz slated to miss the next several months due to a torn ACL, per F4WOnline.com (h/t Marc Middleton of Wrestling Inc), now is the perfect time for WWE to finally start pushing John Morrison as a singles star.

    After over eight years away, he returned to the company in January 2020 better than he was before he left. Reuniting him with The A-Lister made sense initially, but their team ran its course a while ago and was never positioned as a real threat.

    Morrison has shown any time he's stepped in the ring that he's an excellent competitor and can have quality matches with just about anyone. Raw could use a few more credible midcarders, and he should be one of them.


    Chad Gable

    This inclusion shouldn't need much of an explanation, as Chad Gable has been one of WWE's most underutilized athletes for years. He's had four different partners in the span of five years but has never gotten his big break as a singles star.

    The former Olympic wrestler shined throughout the 2019 King of the Ring tournament, though WWE hasn't done anything of note with him since. A renewed singles push could keep him from leaving.


    Lance Archer

    This spot would have been occupied for Miro had he not won the TNT Championship on the May 12 edition of AEW Dynamite. Instead, it's going to his Double or Nothing opponent, Lance Archer, who has somehow yet to taste gold since signing with the company.

    Archer is featured on almost every episode of Dynamite and has had several standout matches, so while he isn't underrated by any stretch, he deserves better booking. After failing to become the inaugural AEW TNT champion last May, he struggled to find his footing for many months before turning into a tweener and getting over with the audience in that role.

    Despite that, The Murderhawk Monster isn't likely to win at Double or Nothing and could easily be in line for an AEW World Championship opportunity if he didn't lose whenever it mattered most.


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    Ricochet arrived on Raw to much fanfare in February 2019, quickly getting over with the audience thanks to his unbelievable aerial abilities. Following a short-lived reign as United States champion that summer, however, it wasn't long before he started flying under the radar as opposed to in the ring.

    His last year in WWE has consisted of getting squashed by Brock Lesnar, being betrayed by Cedric Alexander, and losing a series of matches to Retribution. His television time on Raw has become less and less frequent, though he did recently have fun back-to-back bouts with U.S. champion Sheamus at WrestleMania Backlash and on the next night's Raw.

    While promos have never been The One and Only's strong suit, his charisma and exceptional skills as a wrestler should be enough to make up for that. As is usually the case, he was booked like a star in NXT but has had trouble finding that same success on Monday nights.

    Switching over to SmackDown and testing the waters there might be his best bet, but he could be a bigger star on the red brand if he wasn't made to lose more often than not.

    Fans have all but given up on the idea that Ricochet will ever be utilized properly and therefore aren't likely to rally behind him, so don't expect his fortunes to change even once crowds are back in the buildings.

    The One and Only has been an afterthought in WWE for the better part of two years now and needs a hard reset in the worst way.

Shinsuke Nakamura

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    The former men's Royal Rumble winner has fallen far from where he was on the card at this time three years ago.

    Similar to Ricochet, Shinsuke Nakamura debuted on the main roster with a ton of buzz in the spring of 2017. Within a year, he was on the verge of becoming a certified main event player before falling short of winning the WWE Championship every chance he had.

    Unfortunately, he hasn't reached those same heights since then, despite enjoying success as a multi-time champion in the midcard and tag team divisions.

    The closest he came was when he nearly won a high-profile Gauntlet match in the main event of SmackDown in January, even pinning Daniel Bryan clean. Universal champion Roman Reigns cost him the victory, and there was never any follow-up between the two of them.

    Nakamura is best suited as a babyface, but his newfound feud with King Corbin isn't bound to get him higher on the card than where he currently is, especially after losing to him twice in the last month. SmackDown needs to start building up future opponents for Reigns, and The King of Strong Style needs to be among them.

    WWE missed its opportunity to put the top title on Nakamura when he was at the peak of his popularity, and relegating him to midcard mediocrity in recent years hasn't helped matters.

Big Swole

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    When Britt Baker and Kris Statlander went down with injuries last summer, Big Swole took the reins of the AEW women's division and was featured prominently on Dynamite through All Out.

    Despite beating Baker at the pay-per-view, Swole seemingly disappeared from AEW programming soon after and hasn't been seen much on Dynamite since.

    On March 8, she revealed on Twitter that she had to miss time earlier in the year due to dealing with Crohn's disease and that was why she wasn't included in the AEW Women's World Championship Eliminator Tournament.

    However, that was over two months ago and she still hasn't been featured on Dynamite. She's been a fixture on both Dark and Dark: Elevation in that time racking up wins, but there has to be a storyline explanation for why she hasn't been brought back to Dynamite yet.

    Despite not being AEW's best all-around female performer, Swole has a lot to offer and is super-charismatic. She was gaining steam throughout her feud with Baker, so for her to not have wrestled on Dynamite since December is puzzling, to say the least.

    If Baker emerges from Double or Nothing as the new AEW women's world champion, hopefully Swole will be the first to challenge given their history and how Baker never avenged that loss from their Tooth and Nail match at All Out last September.

Jeff Hardy

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    After being absent from WWE TV since before WrestleMania 37, Jeff Hardy made his triumphant return to Raw on the May 10 episode against Jinder Mahal. When he lost in a matter of minutes to the former WWE champion, it was made pretty apparent that the company has no plans to push him any time soon.

    It was just one year ago that Hardy came back from a long layoff and WWE was committed to featuring him as a top act on SmackDown. He had a great redemption story going for himself and built real momentum with wins over Sheamus and AJ Styles.

    Almost immediately upon arriving on Raw in the 2020 WWE draft, he was slotted into a storyline with Elias. Once that ran its course, he suffered a series of losses to the likes of Jaxson Ryker, Bobby Lashley, Styles, The Miz and others.

    Considering The Charismatic Enigma is now 43, it's safe to say his days of being a world champion in WWE are behind him. That said, he still has plenty of value, is extremely popular with fans and has no business being booked like an undercard act.

    At a time when WWE could use star power toward the top of the card on Raw, Hardy would be a welcome opponent for Lashley if the company bothered to treat him like the legend he is.

Ruby Riott

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    The  women's divisions on Raw, SmackDown and NXT are so stacked with star power that it's easy to forget just how talented someone such as Ruby Riott is.

    In the four years she's been with WWE, she has yet to hold gold on any of the three brands. That includes the WWE Women's Tag Team Championships, which she and Liv Morgan should have won by now.

    Riott is an incredibly skilled competitor between the ropes but doesn't often get the chance to show what she's capable of. Due to reuniting with Morgan, she hasn't had many singles showings over the last year, but she did have some time to shine in her recent matches against Carmella and Bayley on SmackDown.

    Bianca Belair, Bayley and Sasha Banks all deserve the spotlight on the blue brand, but Riott should be shown some love as well. WWE has never properly pushed her on her own, and therefore there are fans who aren't aware of everything she brings to the table.

    The Riott Squad's stunning lack of television time in 2021 has held them back from being bigger stars than they are. They're bound to get their due eventually, but it should come sooner rather than later given the lack of depth within the division on SmackDown.

Cody Rhodes

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    For someone who helped usher in AEW and currently serves in an executive role, Cody Rhodes isn't in as prominent of a position on the card as most would think. While not exactly underrated, his booking in 2021 has been questionable, to say the least.

    The two-time TNT champion has been floundering all over the show since the culmination of his storyline with MJF in February 2020, bouncing around from feud to feud with no real direction. There's been zero explanation for why his television time has been drastically curtailed, other than the AEW executive vice president possibly not wanting to steal the spotlight and have the show centered around him.

    It isn't imperative that he wears world title gold, but almost anything is better than what he's doing at the moment. It's commendable that he wants to work with the fresher faces in an attempt to get them over, but his recent rivalry with QT Marshall and the rest of The Factory has felt like a waste of his star power.

    His polarizing patriotic promo from the May 12 edition of AEW Dynamite, while well-delivered, came completely out of nowhere and illustrated how his character has been all over the place for months now. Regardless of whether he wins or loses at Double or Nothing, it's obvious he could be of better use on the show.

    The stipulation put in place following his loss to Chris Jericho at Full Gear in 2019 prevents him from challenging for the AEW World Championship, but he can still be an important player on the show and partake in quality long-term storytelling without having to fight for the top title.


    Graham Mirmina, aka Graham "GSM" Matthews, has specialized in sports and entertainment writing since 2010. Visit his website, WrestleRant, and subscribe to his YouTube channel for more wrestling-related content.